Presenting little-known artists with a strong and unique identity is the credo of the 193 Gallery, a stone’s throw from Place de la République, in Paris. “Our mission is to offer contemporary scenes that are not sufficiently represented to our taste, from Africa, South-East Asia, the Caribbean, South America or Oceania. We fight for the mixture of cultures and styles ”, specifies César Lévy, director of the place.
Created in 2018 rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, in the IIIe Parisian district, the gallery, which owes its name to the number of UN member countries, has moved into a new space of 350 m2 on several levels since May 19. “It is about bringing together works from all over the world and making it possible to admire the contemporaneity of the countries that we present”, insists César Lévy.
Black woman pride
Until July 31, three artists are presented on the gallery walls. Thandiwe Muriu occupies a prominent place there. The young Kenyan photographer – barely 30 years old – exhibits her series “Camo” (“camouflage”): a set of feminine portraits saturated with colors, fabrics, amazing hairstyles and strange “glasses”.
It all started for her at 14, when her father taught her and her sisters to use a digital camera. “I didn’t really know how to draw or paint, but from my first interaction with the camera, I knew there was a connection between me and photography”, she recalls. Her career led her to advertising photography, without altering her taste and her desire for a more artistic form. And revisit the genre of portraiture, very present in Africa.
Thanks to the advice of a photographer friend, in 2015 she began her “Camo” series. Exploration of color and creation of the continent, pride of black women. “I want to encourage young girls to celebrate their dark skin. A theme that is sometimes heavy, but that I want to highlight in a fun and easy to tackle way ”, underlines the artist from Nairobi.
The fabrics used are purchased in the markets of the Kenyan capital. A difficult search for Thandiwe Muriu: “I don’t have a formula for finding the right fabric. I just know which one will work when I take it out of the store batteries. “ Then, the fabric will be entrusted to a tailor who will make the clothes designed by the photographer, inspired by the works of the African-American artist Bisa Butler.
Hairstyles and “glasses” are the last markers in the series. Between modernity – hair cut very short – and tradition – very elaborate architectural hairstyles – the artist highlights an ancestral culture of female beauty. As for the “glasses”, they are made from recycled materials, often linked to Thandiwe Muriu’s childhood.
Noticed in 2019 in particular by CNN Africa, she received in 2020 the People Choice Award for emerging photography of the year at the Photo London show. Despite international recognition, the artist regularly visits schools to show young girls that art is not just for men, she who has had to fight to find her place in a very masculine world.
The 193 Gallery also gives pride of place to Derrick Ofosu Boateng: with him, the color saturation is taken to the extreme. Celebration of a continent full of poetry and pride. “A positive philosophy of life, a creative, innovative and optimistic Africa”, specifies César Lévy. The Ghanaian barely 25 years old “Seeks to change the perception of Africa and to promote love and peace between people of different cultures and backgrounds”.
For him, photography is a way of communicating with the world around him. Scenes that seem naive, reflecting energy, light and power. With a very present graphic intention, in particular thanks to the use of fruits or balloons.
Like his compatriot Prince Gyasi, who belongs to the same new generation of Ghanaian photographers, Derrick Ofosu Boateng works using an iPhone donated by his father. From thinking to finding the right location and models, he designs his works as “African prints”. A nomadic photographer capable of setting up his studio in a particularly chosen location.
Finally, head to the West Indies with plastic artist Jean-Marc Hunt. And more precisely Guadeloupe, its “Launching pad to the stars”. Islander and therefore a great traveler to show his art, he mainly works on sheets of paper: “My studio and my works fit in a backpack. I fill out sketchbooks during my travels, which I then maroufle on canvas for each exhibition. “
The artist questions notions of identity, social practices linked to the creolization of the world and historical and contemporary relations of domination. “It is important for me to create an imagery that identifies the questions due to the black and Caribbean condition. The systems of transmission, education and cultural preservation have yet to be built in West Indian society ”, he explains.
Coming from the school of graffiti and street-art, Jean-Marc Hunt notably presents two series at the 193 Gallery. The first, entitled “Cosmogonic stories”, refers to childhood and is made on the artist’s favorite material, paper, considered as a primary element of transmission, a means of telling a story, in which the whole would form collective memory.
The second, “Ti’Punch Molotov”, is like a “Rum arranged which mixes revolution and demand, remedy and poison, at the same time engine of social power and cause of the loss of control, where drunkenness becomes dehumanizing”, specifies the artist. Violence of gesture and profusion of colors question the fairly hierarchical social relations of West Indian society. “It is my condition as a Negropolitan. I love France but France doesn’t know it. She ignores me “, concludes the plastic surgeon.
193 Gallery, 24 rue Béranger, 75003 Paris. From Tuesday to Saturday,
from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free entrance.